He may be known for his signature Boston Red Sox baseball cap, but for his third Survivor experience, "Boston Rob" Mariano wore many hats in the Villains' tribe. He was one of the tribe's strongest physical competitors, was arguably this season's best puzzle players and was a natural leader at camp. (Seriously: Why couldn't anyone else start a fire?) Unfortunately, all those attributes just didn't add up when Russell Hantz turned a number of Rob's allies against him and sent him packing. The 34-year-old cast-off spoke with TVGuide.com about how the game has changed over the years, his rivalry with Russell and what he would have done differently.
TVGuide.com: You had a bad feeling throughout your last days on the island.
Rob Mariano: The writing was on the wall when we got back from tribal council after Tyson was voted out. I can understand Russell, Danielle and Parvati being excited that they had their numbers, but when they started getting cocky like they were running the show, it doesn't make sense. We still had the numbers, and they're acting as if they've won the game in some way; how can that be? At that point I knew that we had a problem and that somebody in my alliance wasn't really [an ally].
TVGuide.com: Why do you think some players, like Coach, decided to switch their alliances at that point?
Rob: You can't really trust somebody that is willing to do anything for absolutely no apparent reason. ... I guess they felt as if they had a better shot with [Russell] than with me, which makes little sense because I'm trying to do the best for my tribe and get us winning and he's doing everything to counter that and sabotage the team in whatever way he can. ... You can only do so much in the game of Survivor. You can bring the horse to water, but you can't always make him drink.
TVGuide.com: What was going through your mind at tribal council when Jeff was reading the votes? Did you at all think it would be Russell going home?
Rob: It was a foregone conclusion. I knew that it was me as we were walking up the steps to tribal council before any votes were event cast. Coach didn't honor his word. Had he, there would have been a tie, and I think at that point, we could have talked Jerri into doing the right thing ... I could see in Coach's eyes that he wasn't going to go along with the plan for whatever reason.
TVGuide.com: Which player are you most frustrated with at this point: Russell because you two never got along or Coach because he broke his word?
Rob: I'm not really frustrated. If I have anyone to blame, it's only myself. I did the best I could, and it didn't work out. There's a different dynamic when you play with people that have played the game before. Not only do you have to contend with things you've done in the past, but also your reputation as others perceive it. ... 10 years have gone by, a lot has changed now. I've played the game three times now, and every time, I gave it 100 percent. I have yet to come out on top, but I'm a competitor and I do what I can. I'm not mad or angry at anyone. I get that it's a game.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think team decided to vote you out instead of a weak player like Courtney or Sandra?
Rob: I think in the beginning, it was about keeping the team strong. Now, they're anticipating a merge, and the only thing that really matters now is the alliances. It's funny — the game has changed so much since I played the last time. It used to be that if you won the immunity challenge, you would come back to camp, everybody would be in good mood, they'd be relaxed. ... Now, it seems like we'd win immunity and there'd more scrambling than if we had lost immunity. There was always jockeying for positions in alliances.
TVGuide.com: You obviously contributed a lot both at camp and in the challenges day after day. Do you feel betrayed after you worked so hard?
Rob: Going into it, I got a big target on me and I don't think people are going to deny that. I realized I have to do those things in the beginning to prove my worth. I'm doing everything I can to do that, but I know when it's all said and done, it doesn't mean anything to anybody. When it comes time to go to tribal council, it doesn't matter anymore.
TVGuide.com: Why did you and Russell clash so much?
Rob: Part of it is we have a similar mentality when it comes to game play, and part of it is because we're complete opposites when it comes to dealing with people. I think the island was too small for the both of us, especially on the same tribe. From the outset, I recognized this guy as someone that's got to go home right away because ... they take the 10 biggest villains of all time, and here's a guy we've never seen play the game before. He's obviously done something to earn this spot, and we know nothing about him. The obvious choice is [to] get him the hell out of here. But giving him the benefit of the doubt at the first tribal council when we sent Randy home proved to be a mistake.